Just like that they were gone. The sound of their footsteps fading as they ran from the garden. They had left her … like so many men before. And she was alone. Even though she was the one who had summoned them, blurted out her horror at the empty, defiled grave. No-one stayed with her now – there were more important people to tell.
So she was alone, in the stillness of the garden, with her thoughts. They were bad company, her thoughts, always had been. There was a time when they had shrieked and flapped inside her head – beating the insides of her mind and tearing at it with their outstretched claws. Then Jesus had clapped his hands, scared them off and sent them flapping away into the far distance. That seemed so long ago now – before the dark night in the city, before the long day at the cross. Now she could feel them circling again, just beyond the horizon – eyeing up their prey … ready to swoop.
Ducking away, she had stolen a look inside the tomb. She was frightened of what she might see. Afraid that the smell of death would find its way inside of her. But no. There were two angels, shimmering with a light brighter inside the cave than the blazing sun outside. They asked her what was the matter, their heavenly voices bouncing off the walls of this very earthly space. And she told them, trying to hide the disappointment in her voice. If the very messengers of God didn’t know where he was, what hope was there?
Blinking back the tears, she could feel the birds circling closer now, their ragged black shapes blocking out the sun. Squinting to see past them, she saw another man, just another man. Those words again, “What is the matter?” That’s when she started babbling, a string of nonsense about going to find him and bringing him back to the grave. She could no more have borne to touch his battered corpse than she could have borne its weight to carry it back.
The birds swooped lower now, claws outstretched, beaks open, hungry for more of her. “Mary,” he said and they were gone. “Mary” – her once shamed, then restored name. “Mary”. Thank God. She felt wounded at first by his words. Why? Why shouldn’t she hold on to him, now she had found him again? Why shouldn’t she grasp his hand, warm again now? Why shouldn’t she run her fingers down his face, clear and smooth again now? But as she turned away on an errand for him, she, Mary, charged with an errand by this magnificent Jesus, a strange thing happened. She never looked back. She never once checked over her shoulder to make sure he was still there. In the days and years that followed, she would never need to touch or see. He would ALWAYS be there. Instead of looking back, she looked up, smiled at the birds circling overhead, and felt only joy, not dread.